Americana duo The Imaginaries — Shane Henry (guitar, vocals) and Maggie McClure (keys, piano, vocals) — hail from Oklahoma, where they grew up immersed in music. They met at a show when Maggie opened for Shane. Eventually, they dated and married.
Prior to Christmas 2017, The Imaginaries released their delectable holiday song, “First Thing On My Christmas List,” a deliciously country-flavored tune featuring their gentle alluring voices in a glossy, creamy duet.
Because of their high successful solo careers, Shane and Maggie didn’t hook up officially as The Imaginaries until 2018. The pair is preparing to release their debut album in early 2020. Recorded at Muscle Shoals, Alabama, with the renowned rhythm section dubbed “the Swampers” in 1971 by producer Denny Cordell, the album promises to be a sweet musical treat full of tasty Americana confections.
I talked with The Imaginaries about their backstories, how they met, and their musical influences because, in a way, they conjure up memories of Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash.
What’s the duo’s musical backstory?
Growing up in Oklahoma, myself (Maggie) from the large city of Norman and Shane from the tiny 700-person town Verden, we both caught the music bug early. I was given my first keyboard by my parents at the age of one and at the age of eight received my first karaoke machine. I loved singing and became obsessed with Bonnie Raitt and Sarah McLachlan’s music after I was introduced to them via my karaoke cassette tapes. I began performing and playing in bands throughout my younger years and through college striving to make my dreams of singing and performing full time a reality. Things began to fall into place and since then I have opened for Sara Bareilles and Walk Off The Earth, have had over 45 original song placements on TV shows such as Dr. Phil, Cougar Town, The Real World, The Vineyard, and The Hills, in TV movies like Hallmark Channel’s My Christmas Love, and in feature films like Cowgirls N’ Angels and A Cowgirl’s Story. I also had a small recurring role on ABC’s The Middle and was cast in the Disney show Violetta as the lead character’s English singing voice. I sang the National Anthem at the very first NBA playoff game in Oklahoma history with more than 18,000 people in attendance, and recently sang the National Anthem and performed the official holiday halftime show at Madison Square Garden for the NY Knicks along with Shane.
Shane was 12-years old when his dad, who played guitar and made a point of exposing him to the likes of the Beatles, Stevie Wonder and Jimi Hendrix, took him to see two shows that changed his life: Tom Petty at the Civic Center in Oklahoma City, and B.B. King, Buddy Guy and Bonnie Raitt at the Tulsa Blues Festival. That inspired him to learn guitar, a skill he pursued with a passion. At age 19, Henry made the move north to Minneapolis to work and record with songwriter/producer Kevin Bowe (Etta James, Joe Cocker) and from there his career took off. He played 30 dates on tour with B.B. King, and also toured with Etta James, Buddy Guy, Joe Bonamassa, George Thorogood and the Destroyers, Johnny Winter, Edwin McCain, the Neville Brothers, and Grand Funk Railroad to name a few. He has had song placements on NBC, CBS, Discovery Channel, Hallmark Channel, and the E! Television network, as well as in feature films.
How did you come to get together?
Music brought us together. I (Maggie) opened a show for Shane when I was 16-years-old and that’s how we met. We became friends, then starting dating a few years later. Now we’re married and have been performing together since 2006. Our college touring days in 2009–2011 is where performing often together as a duo came into play (we would back each other up). People would always ask for a CD with both of us on it and we knew eventually we would do something together, we just didn’t know how or when it would happen (after being solo artists for so long). It wasn’t until 2018 when we launched our new band together, The Imaginaries.
What’s your favorite song to belt out in the car or the shower?
Currently, my (Shane) favorite song to belt out in the car and/or shower is Aaron Neville’s version of “O Holy Night.”
What musicians/vocalists influenced you the most?
Shane — Tom Petty, Stevie Ray Vaughn, BB King.
Maggie — Sarah McLachlan, Norah Jones, Allison Krauss.
What kind of guitar does Shane play? And why?
Shane plays a few different guitars. He plays two different acoustic guitars — a Martin OM, Collings OM, and for electrics he plays a Fender Custom Shop Strat and a Fender Telecaster. “They feel and sound great. I can use them in any musical scenario” says Shane.
The name, The Imaginaries, carries a number of connotations and implications. What’s the story behind the name and why it was selected?
Coming up with a new band name these days is not easy! We spent a good amount of time brainstorming and dreaming up our new band name. The Imaginaries is a combination of using our imaginations to dream up what’s next for our music and also captures the visionaries that we strive to be. The band name came to Shane in the middle of the night in a dream.
What inspired “First Thing On My Christmas List?”
Our love of the holidays and Christmas music inspired “First Thing On My Christmas List,” which we wrote along with our dear friend/co-writer Jeff Silbbar (songwriter of “Wind Beneath My Wings”).
What is your songwriting process? Does the music come first and then the lyrics?
Each song is written differently. Sometimes Shane will start a song. Sometimes I (Maggie) will start a song. Sometimes we will start a song from scratch together. Music typically comes before lyrics for us, but not always!
What made you think the world needed another Christmas song?
Our goal with “First Thing On My Christmas List” was to write a new holiday duet that could become a new standard and classic Christmas song that could stand the test of time.
What’s next for you musically?
Our debut self-titled album will be released in 2020 followed by a national tour. Lots of exciting things in the works for The Imaginaries!
Follow Maggie McClure Website
Follow Shane Henry Website